The Lighthouse Customer: World Of Diving

One word. One syllable. Sounds like: DARRRRRRRRK!

Each Monday, Chris Livingston visits an early access game and reports back with stories about whatever he finds inside. This week, sharks, shoals, and silence with World of Diving.

When you start playing World of Diving you’re invited to vote on the next feature you’d like the developers to add. Most players have voted for a metal detector for treasure hunting. The second most-popular choice is an advanced camera. Least popular: an in-game chat feature. Frankly, I’d be happy if chat never gets added. While it can be great to talk to other players, I think there’s something to be said for a game that allows just a few friendly gestures and plenty of blessed silence.

World of Diving begins the way all the best games begin: by playing dress-up. You can customize your divers even though you won’t be seeing them (much) in this first-person dive-em-down. Choose which incredibly fit and toned body you want, fiddle with color of your hair, skin (you can be green!), and eyes, pick out some swimwear and scuba gear, and gaze longingly at the cool stuff you’ll need to unlock by finding pearls and doubloons on the ocean floor (or by purchasing them with real money).

Now who's the Big Daddy?

After a brief training session in a pool, I begin a dive down to the wreck of an old submarine. There’s a rope to follow from the boat deep down to the ocean floor. Fish dart here and there, the larger shapes of dolphins and turtles are visible on the fringes of my vision, and soft, pleasantly unobtrusive orbs of light signal distant objectives and points of interest. I have a scuba-scooter, which is a small motorized torpedo you hang onto as it drags you quickly through the water. I speed off toward the wrecked sub and soon spot the game’s best feature: other players.

Bet she's gonna shoot me. Oh, wait, this isn't DayZ.

I see a man and woman swimming around, and they they paddle over to me. Since there’s no voice or chat, I can only choose from a few gestures. I wave hello. She waves hello. Then he waves hello. I point. He waves again. She points. I wave, not hello, but come here. He points. She points, again, then waves. I try to wave come here again but accidentally wave hello. She gives the OK sign, then waves hello. Then we float there staring at each other. Finally, someone waves again.

I don't think he's using his Oculus Rift properly.

So, communication is about as limited as it would be if you were actually underwater with strangers, combined with sometimes choosing the wrong gesture altogether. Actually trying to get a point across in World of Diving is tough, and at the moment I am actually trying to get a point across: what I’d like to do is get everyone together so I can take a group picture, and I want to include myself in the picture as well.

More interesting than taking a picture of your Starbucks Dessert-In-A-Cup, at least.

See, the game’s underwater camera has a neat “float” feature: you can let the camera out of your hands and leave it hovering in place in the water. Then you can swim around to the front to take pictures of yourself with a remote trigger (I think the trendy term the kids use for this practice is self-featuring daguerreotype). This is fun, and makes it more challenging than if there were simply a third-person mode in the game.

FPS: First-person swimmer.

The only thing I don’t like about the camera is that after any picture you take, you have to hit a key to look at it, then click the mouse to save it. It doesn’t automatically get saved into your gallery. Be careful! I took dozens of photos before I realized that.

My new bubble-buddies.

Apart from taking pictures of yourself and other divers, you can use your camera to photograph fish and dolphins and turtles and sharks, or engage in various photo challenges, which can be triggered by icons on the ocean floor. Challenges are along the lines of taking pictures of eight different trout, or getting five starfish all in the same picture, or photographing specific sunken objects, all within a set time limit. They’re kinda fun, and amidst the mostly aimless diving it’s nice to have a bit of structure every now and then. You can also design your own challenges, save them, and share them with the community. There are a few different dives to choose from: along with the wrecked submarine there’s a submerged airplane, an old-timey pirate ship, and a massive sunken ocean liner.

Clear the shot, stupid dolphin! I'm trying to photograph a common trout!

There’s no danger in World of Diving. You won’t run out of air, be bitten by a shark, or be attacked or even insulted by another player. There’s just diving. Swimming. Looking. You can complete objectives or just free-swim. It’s a sandbox with actual sand at the bottom. The animations are nicely done, the underwater sounds are great (especially dolphin noises), and it looks lovely. It’s also supportive of the OCULON-FACECOMPUTER (I believe that’s what it’s called) that is all the rage these days, though I don’t have one myself so I can’t say how well it works. You can play alone, of course, but I spent most of my time swimming around and exploring with strangers.

It's good to have company in old creepy submarines.

Price-wise (£15/$20), it may feel a bit steep for a casual diving game, especially considering there are also micropayments if you want to unlock aesthetic gear more quickly. On the other hand, it’s a game without threats or danger, where no one (currently) can yell at you, where all you can do to other players is wave at them.

Oh yeah! There's fish to look at too.

There are times when that’s just what you need from a game. Say, during a week when you’re stressed from trying to quit smoking (again), or a week when you’re distraught because you’ve been informed your beloved pet has an aggressive terminal illness (again), or a week where social media is filled with seemingly nothing but bile and anger and perhaps you yourself have sadly contributed little besides more bile and more anger.

You know, weeks like that. That’s when it’s important to have a game that lets you slip into a beautiful, enchanting world where nothing bites, nothing yells, nothing kills, and nothing dies. A game where when you meet other players, you just wave hello, swim side-by-side for a time, and then part ways.

It's been a true pleasure not talking to you.

World of Diving is available on Steam.

23 Comments

  1. Ross Angus says:

    Lovely work, as always. Sounds like The Endless Forest. But under the sea.

  2. Jumpyshark says:

    Are the features to explore set maps or procedural? I’m curious as to the longevity of the game if there is one galleon, one plane etc that are the same each time.
    The water looks lovely though, and seeing the aquatic denizens would be a fantastic experience.

    • Chris Livingston says:

      The maps are designed, not procedural. They’ve been the same every time I’ve gone into them.

      • gschmidl says:

        As I understood, the plan is to have both designed maps and (later) procedurally generated ocean as well.

        There are also community-designed missions and a mission editor. You can even tell short stories with that.

        • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

          Coming here to ask about community contributions. Glad to see they exist in some form. I hope that down the line players could design actual underwater areas or something. That would give the game a lot of longevity, I think.

  3. mpOzelot says:

    Nice read, the conclusion in particular. Bit off topic, if you want to quit smoking you should try the book from Allen Carr. I haven’t tried it myself, but two close friends quitted after reading it, so maybe it’s worth checking it out.

  4. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I’m glad this game got the Lighthouse Customer treatment, I’ve been intrigued by it since I first spotted it. I think I will personally wait for a sale of some sort, although the price actually isn’t that bad.

    Great write-up as usual, Chris.

  5. Dirhael says:

    Struggled a little big getting it up and running on the Rift DK2, but it sure was worth it. You really do feel like you’re lost in a wast, strange world that’s a joy to just explore. Well, until nausea sets in at least. Agree on your point about micro transactions, they’re a bit right-in-your-face, and the character customization is a bit limited if you don’t purchase items.

  6. bear912 says:

    Oculon-Facecomputer? You mean the Octopus Reef? Either way, playing with such a device if you weren’t used to it might make you feel a bit eel.

  7. sinister agent says:

    I can’t get the thought out of my mind now: a guy diving in (I’d guess) the Pacific, wearing an Oculus Rift headset, which he’s using to simulate being sat at home on a sofa, eating crisps.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      My nose began bleeding when I thought about this.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Or it’s simulating a space walk. That would be cool. Little need for the ocean then, a pool will do!

  8. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    Is that Trolldolphin?

  9. bill says:

    If i had an Octopus Reef then this game would be an instant purchase. As I don’t, I can’t make up my mind whether it’d be worth it.
    It looks lovely to swim around though.

  10. spacedyemeerkat says:

    Awwww! Looks fun but perhaps could have been so much more as a modern day version of Scuba Dive! What a game that was. Showing my age… oops.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    self-featuring daguerrotype

    I actually chuckled aloud at this, not an easy feat at this time of the morning.

  12. Geebs says:

    It’s kind of a shame that there isn’t limited oxygen or a nitrogen mechanic; part of what makes real sub-aqua interesting is that a lot of stuff is in places which require actual planning to get to, and the time spent in those locations is far more precious as a result. Take that away and what do you get? Selfies, that’s what.

    Even better, you could have some awesome Eternal Darkness-style nitrogen narcosis effects. A ‘touch rusty stuff underwater, bleed profusely’ mechanic would be educational, too.

  13. Shiloh says:

    You went diving as a female? Good choice.

  14. strangeloup says:

    Reminds me of Endless Ocean on the Wii, which was a similarly relaxing experience.

    Also I initially read the title as World of Dying, which would lead one to expect something more along the lines of Dark Souls, perhaps.

  15. sophof says:

    A diving game where you can’t run out of air, don’t have to think of decompression or partial oxygen pressure and other things like that seems kind of pointless to me. Then again, I don’t dive for the dangers, I dive for the views, so maybe I’ve got it the wrong way ’round.

    The point is, the adventure is a big part of the diving experience. A wreck is great not just because of how it looks, but also because it is in an alien, hostile environment. You get to feel like Indiana Jones for an hour.